An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | May 4, 2023

Reserve Sailors Sharpen Skills in Middle East's Largest Maritime Exercise

By Ensign Andrew Park

A chaotic scene unfolded as medics from the U.S. Navy and partner forces worked to stabilize several patients scattered outside a row of tents in Aqaba, Jordan. A makeshift clinic was set up inside one tent, where two Jordanian service members quickly tied a tourniquet around a patient’s arm, while Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ndudi Chukwudozie, a U.S. Navy Reserve Sailor, looked on and provided instruction.  

The team of service members was participating in the International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express (IMX/CE) 2023, a combined exercise that involved more than 50 partner nations and international organizations. The event took place from Feb. 16 to March 16 and provided Chukwudozie and other Reserve Sailors with an opportunity to sharpen their skills while showing the value the Reserve force brings to the Navy as a source of strategic depth.  

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) led the exercise across territorial and international waters in the Middle East, while U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa led in the Indian Ocean and East African coastal regions. The exercise was designed to demonstrate global resolve in preserving the rules-based international order and to illustrate the importance of regional maritime security cooperation.  

Other components of IMX/CE 2023 included combined force maritime operations, maritime security operations, mine countermeasures, and unmanned systems and artificial intelligence.  

The involvement of 75 Reserve Sailors among approximately 7,000 total participants supported the vision and principles of the Navy Reserve’s recently published Battle Order Plan 2032, said Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski, the vice commander of NAVCENT and U.S. 5th Fleet. 

“The warfighting efforts from the 5th Fleet Reserve Sailors enhance the capacity and capabilities of the NAVCENT staff in not just traditional functions of international maritime security but also in multi-domain warfighting capabilities such as unmanned maritime vessel control,” Nowakowski said. “This unmanned warfighting capability and integration strengthens our regional partnerships and international maritime security.” 

Chukwudozie spent seven years on active duty before transitioning to the Navy Reserve in 2016 and is now assigned to the NAVCENT’s Navy Reserve medical unit in Great Lakes, Illinois. He said he appreciated the chance to get hands-on experience in the field.  

“This was my first time participating in an exercise this large,” Chukwudozie said. “It was great. The experience helped build a lot of courage in my skill set and also helped build up partnerships with other countries.” 

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Brooke Christenson, the leading petty officer of the Reserve medical unit, was assigned during IMX/CE 2023 to the maritime operations center in Bahrain, from which she supported NAVCENT’s Global Health Engagement Team. 

“This was perhaps the most engaging and real-life Navy experience I've had the opportunity to be a part of,” Christenson said. “By working the MOC floor, and being a part of the Global Health Engagement Team, I was able to work with not only other rates across the Navy and gain better understanding and culture, but engage with partner nations across the world, which is the whole reason I joined the Navy.” 

Chukwudozie said he and other members of the medical team worked with a doctor from the U.K. who brought a wealth of experience in different techniques used in his country for providing medical care. Medical professionals participating in the exercise covered the spectrum – physicians, physicians assistants, nurses, medics and corpsmen – and came from Djibouti, Brazil, Israel, Kazakhstan and the Philippines, as well as Jordan and the United Kingdom. 

“I loved working with these members and getting to learn the way they operate and provide training,” Christenson said. “It also opened up my eyes to what they valued, gave an inside look on what matters to them in training perspectives and created general positive mission impact working collaboratively.”  

“It was a great help to a lot of attendees because a lot of them have never dealt with combat casualty care prior to this exercise,” Chukwudozie added. 

In total, 12 medical Reserve Sailors were spread out across three countries: Bahrain, Jordan and Kenya. They supported various aspects of the exercise, including ships such as USS Truxtun (DDG 103) and the U.K.’s RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009), and subject matter expert exchanges.  They also provided critical support for the first physician Combat Casual Care Course held outside the United States. Led by Capts. Miguel Cubano and Jack Tsao, NAVCENT’s force and Reserve force surgeons, it brought together physicians from participating nations for three days of training in managing battlefield casualties. 

In Jordan, Reserve crews participating in IMX/CE 2023 helped set up tents, conducted hands-on training and oversaw a practical exercise that tested the medics on their skills working through tactical combat care scenarios, Chukwudozie said. The scenarios included skills such as applying a tourniquet to a patient in a combat zone – a situation in which a medic must secure the scene before administering medical care. Sometimes medical issues aren’t obvious, so Chukwudozie and his team taught the partners an acronym, MARCH, to use when assessing a patient's medical needs. 

“M”stands for massive hemorrhage, Chukwudozie explained. A medic first checks the patient for that. If there are no signs of massive hemorrhage, the medic moves on to airways, then to respiration and circulation, and finally to head injuries and hypothermia.  

“We teach them that acronym and make sure we go through all the steps,” Chukwudozie said. “Once the patient is all sorted out, you have to make sure you get the patient’s vitals … to ensure they’re in a stable condition.” 

He said his proudest moment came during the evaluation test on the last day of the combat casualty exercise. He watched as the partner nation medics worked through the sequence he had taught them to successfully complete the evaluation.  

“They did great,” Chukwudozie said. “Despite the language barriers, they were able to carry out the test 100%. That’s a testament that they understood and were able to apply what we taught them in a safe and timely manner.” 

Multinational exercises such as IMX/CE 2023 prove what can be achieved when regional and international maritime partners work together. By integrating processes, systems, and command and control functions, partner nations strengthen relationships and build trust.   

They provide opportunities for interactions between Reserve and active-duty components as well. Those interactions are crucial not only in large multinational exercises but also in the event of mobilizations, during which Reserve Sailors will be required to plug seamlessly into operations alongside their active-duty counterparts.  

“We could deploy tomorrow,” Chukwudozie said. “You never know when you’ll be called upon to take charge of training or give CPR or teach a class on combat casualty care. And it’s not just about teaching those skills, but being able to apply them in real time if the need ever comes up.”